Mike Trimble is a high school biology teacher at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe but he’s way overqualified for the job. He has done work with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, in 2012 he won a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow from the National Geographic Society and has conducted professional research around the world.
I first met Mr. Trimble my sophomore year at Corona when he came into my honors biology class to discuss an upcoming SCUBA trip through Corona’s Outdoor Science Club to San Clemente Island in California. The trip was a five-day long trip on a live-aboard dive boat. You had to be a certified SCUBA diver or get certified before you went on the trip. I was the only person in my class who was already SCUBA certified; I had been certified for three years. Many kids in the class were interested but were intimidated by the fact that they would have to learn to become amphibious (learn how to properly breathe underwater). I ended up going on the trip, even though I had no idea who was going, I just wanted to see the kelp forests and be on a boat.
As it turns out, one other sophomore came on the trip: Emily White. Emily had been in my math class all year, but her and I became fast friends on the long bus ride to the California shoreline. We told stories and talked about conspiracy theories, she was so cool. I wondered why it took me so long to get to know her. Our bond was solidified when I started violently vomiting on the boat ride out to the islands. She stayed outside in the cold with me for hours. If Mr. Trimble hadn’t come into my class and given me the opportunity to go on this trip I might have never become friends with Emily. I also would have never been reunited with my old friend, Bradley Gerdes.
On the boat I managed to get my Advanced SCUBA Certification, which included deep diving, night diving, underwater nature identification, and underwater navigation. I had also been certified as a dry suit diver a few weeks prior to the trip. I respected Mr. Trimble a lot for wanting his students to have such an experience. Mr. Trimble always made an effort to communicate his perception of the importance of nature. Mr. Trimble’s goal is to instill an ethical appreciation for the natural world among his students and encourage us to think independently. His goal is to create leaders. I am currently taking his Honors Advanced Biology 3-4 class in my junior year. I look forward to his class every day. I start my day listening to him speak, five days a week, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Some of you have probably taken his class. If you have, then you probably remember the 24-hour survival trip. In those 24-hours I had some of my most empowering moments ever. I had to build a shelter from scratch and create a fire with nothing but cotton balls, Vaseline, and a magnesium fire starter. I’ve never been more proud of myself. The best part about the trip was watching the sky. In those moments when I woke from my sleep to tend to the fire I always took some time afterward to pause and appreciate my surroundings. Nothing felt better than being alone with the natural world and witnessing its beauty in such an intimate manner. I never felt scared or lonely, I felt peaceful. I had the stars, the howling of coyotes, and the sweet smell of creosote bushes. My fire lasted the whole night and the only discomfort I had was in sleeping on the hard ground, but I’ve never been more grateful for nature. It’s important to know that you can sustain yourself – it provides you sense of confidence. How I see it, nature provides for us, so we must, in return, protect it. Mr. Trimble succeeded in making me feel appreciation for nature and pride in myself.
In the first few months of school Mr. Trimble had us do a series of labs on ourselves, including one that measured changes in consumption to help us reduce the amount of natural resources we waste with a given variable. He also had us make a personal change to benefit ourselves. Mr. Trimble understands that we are overworked and restless as high school students who are all competing for the same opportunities. He doesn’t like seeing us in unhealthy conditions, both mentally and physically. For this lab, he encouraged us to get more sleep, build our strength or our endurance. We did both of these labs during the same two-week period. For my consumption lab I cut my shower time in half to reduce my water usage (as we are still in a drought and live in a desert), and for my personal lab I did yoga before bed to ensure a deep a long sleep. I ended up making both of these things a habit. The shower time reductions lowered our water bill and the pre-sleep yoga got rid of a case of mild insomnia that I had somehow picked up. I am also spending less money on coffee because I can stay awake without it now. I don’t know if I would have thought to do pre-sleep yoga if I hadn’t been prompted by Mr. Trimble to research ways to improve my sleeping pattern.
Mr. Trimble also had us do a personal happiness lab for three weeks. To introduce the topic he had us watch a Ted Talk on how personal happiness benefits people in all aspects of life; it improves grades, mental health, lowers your risk of physical ailments, and how it encourages you to keep going in day-to-day life. For this lab I wrote down three things I was grateful for every day. I would look at the list of blessings I had procured and find myself smiling. I still look at it every now and then to remind myself that I can always find something to smile about even when I’m at my lowest. The gift of thinking positively manifested in me as I wrote down the things in my life that benefited me over the years. It’s like a superpower, being able to shake myself out of a negative mindset all on my own. It makes every problem seem like an opportunity to better myself. Thank you for the personal labs Mr. Trimble, I am very thankful for all of them.
Aside from personal labs, we are doing in-field research to measure the changes in biotic communities in support of certain organisms as the seasons change from fall to spring. This is another thing that I admire about Mr. Trimble, anyone can show you how research is done but Mr. Trimble will make you a researcher. Hands-on learning has always felt more meaningful to me. It has more value than just knowing random facts, it’s about applying the things that you’ve learned. When I really think about it, the whole class is hands-on work, Mr. Trimble just encourages us to make it our best. I have been conducting research at the ASU Research Park lake by measuring pH levels, conductivity, temperature, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen in support of freshwater fish. The projects in his class feel more meaningful and productive than any other class. As an aspiring biologist I love the task of monitoring that lake. I’ve become more precise and self-disciplined in my research habits. For example, I care a lot about the accuracy of the data so I always do my measurements on the same day every month in the same spot on the lake at the same time of day. This project has also given me an understanding of how organisms can adjust to maintain homeostasis in varying weather conditions. I’ve learned more about biology through these projects than I have learned from taking notes in class.
One of my favorite things that Mr. Trimble did this year was he gave us a ridiculous assignment about a lake in Africa called Lake Nakuru and basically said, “here’s this lake whose ecosystem is totally messed up and also so is the economy in the area; tell me the problem and how we fix it to make everything work affordably and realistically in a ten-minute Power Point.” So obviously this assignment was supposed to be insane! His goal was to test the honors students who are used to having very strict criteria and all the information spoon-fed to them. Mr. Trimble wanted to teach that sometimes no matter how hard you try you might not always meet your end goal, but it’s okay. This was symbolic of how honors students feel the need to be perfect and, as a result, very hard on themselves. In the world of science, not every problem has a clear-cut solution, sometimes you have to dig and you might not be successful in the end. Mr. Trimble taught us that failure is okay because you can come back from it.
I’m lucky to have taken Mr. Trimble’s class when I did. After next year, he will retire permanently. I’ve talked to people who have had Mr. Trimble as a teacher in the past and they speak so highly of his class. A girl in the nail salon heard me talking about the survival trip and said, “Mr. Trimble is still teaching?” and then gave me advice about firewood stockpiling for my survival experience. A friend of my mom’s said she still applies the things she learned in his class 30 years ago to her life now. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Trimble, he’s been inspiring students to become contributors to society and conscientious thinkers for decades. Though I am 16, I see a lot of myself in him. I want to do something with my life that means something and he reminds me that I will be successful in that, every day, five days a week. We have the same appreciation for nature, which is great because I can show him some of the things I’ve experienced in nature and know that he will appreciate it. For example, some bioluminescent phytoplankton was along the shoreline when I was in Mexico for the New Year’s holiday so I took pictures of it so that he could enjoy it, too. Sometimes I feel like a “brown-noser” because I want him to recognize that his class has done everything for me that he wanted it to. I want to be his reminder that he is doing a phenomenal job. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Mr. Trimble, I hope he knows that he has been my biggest reinforcement in pursuing science as a career path. Mr. Trimble, if you’re reading this you’re the best teacher I’ve had in a long time and your class will stick with me as it has for those that came before me. Thank you!
Submitted by Teen Life Columnist Lauren Puffer